The Rangers had the most convenient excuse in the world following the club’s 5-2 loss to the Bruins in Game 2. Not only did they play a poor defensive game with a ton of mistakes, but Henrik Lundqvist also had one of the worst games of his career.
Surely Lundqvist would bounce back in Game 3 with a much better effort, perhaps a sterling showing that would steal New York a win and get them right back in the series. But Lundqvist was damn good Tuesday night in Game 3, and even that wasn’t enough. The Bruins, despite being frustrated by big save after big save, eventually did just enough and got enough good fortune to beat Lundqvist and the Rangers.
Boston took Lundqvist’s best shot, and they were even a little bit better. And now, the series is over.
The Rangers’ best chance to win this series was for Lundqvist to play like the best goalie in the world. For two games, he was far from that, but on Tuesday, he started to resemble a Vezina finalist again. He was there to turn away both Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin on breakaways in the first period. He stopped Jaromir Jagr point-blank. Twice. There was a stunning glove save on Gregory Campbell in the second, perhaps only bested by another glove save on Seguin in the third.
There were only two ways that the Rangers were going to win this series. The New York power play is a train wreck right now, the Rangers have a dearth in depth compared to the ultra-deep Bruins, and, quite frankly, Claude Julien is outcoaching John Tortorella right now. One of the only ways for New York to win was to have the Bruins fall back into that whole Jekyll and Hyde thing and cough up a game or four. The second, of course, would have been to have Lundqvist steal a game or two or the entire series.
He tried — boy, did he try — to steal Game 3. For much of the game, it looked like he was going to do it. The Rangers got the game’s first goal in the second period, and it looked like one was going to be good enough. But one of the differences in the series through games has been the Bruins’ ability to do more of the little things than the Rangers. The B’s, especially the fourth line, started to get to the net. They started to get traffic in front of Lundqvist. As we saw in Game 2, sometimes beating a world-class goalie is as simple as getting in front of him.
They tied it up with tremendous net-front traffic, and Boston won it with more traffic and a lucky bounce.
“It hasn’t been our game so far,” Lundqvist said after the game. “We have to work a little harder to get the bounces. We got closer, but again I’ve got to give them some credit, too, the way they play and the way they show up in front of the net and make it pretty tough.”
Arguably the best chance for the Rangers to win the series was to have Lundqvist stand on his head night after night. While he didn’t do that in Games 1 or 2, he brought his best when his team needed it most in Game 3. He was good — he was really good — and it wasn’t enough. They needed his best, they got his best, and they still lost the game. That, along with a 3-0 series deficit, is just something you just don’t come back from.